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What is the Difference Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine?

By J.L. Drede
Updated May 17, 2024
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Amphetamine and methamphetamine drugs act in similar ways, delivering similar feelings of ecstasy and alertness to those who use them. Both have legitimate prescribed uses and both are routinely abused by users looking for a high. One main difference between the two is that methamphetamine has a higher potency than amphetamine. It's method of delivery can vary as well, as it can be smoked or injected while amphetamines are primarily ingested orally. This may further add to its addictive nature since drugs that can be shot directly into the blood stream or inhaled often are more addictive than pills. Methamphetamine typically is easier to produce and synthesize as well. Both amphetamine and methamphetamine can be created in a lab, but only methamphetamine can be synthesized using over-the-counter cold medication and common household chemicals.

Even though one may be more addictive than the other, both amphetamine and methamphetamine can lead to serious mental and physical damage. Both drugs are stimulants, and continued use of either can cause damage to the heart and nervous system, even when used under a prescription. Their mind-altering effects can also lead to irreversible brain damage and mental problems, such as dementia and paranoia.

Methamphetamine can be snorted, smoked or injected, so there are additional side effects its abuse can bring users. Smoking methamphetamine can permanently damage a user's gums and teeth; a condition often called meth mouth. Like any intravenous drug, injection of methamphetamine can lead to serious infections and the spread of diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis.

Aside from those differences amphetamine and methamphetamine are nearly identical and even share the same chemical compound. Amphetamines are often prescribed to treat mental disorders such as ADHD, as they may increase alertness and improves concentration. These drugs also may be prescribed to treat narcolepsy and certain kinds of drug-resistant depression.

Many different kinds of diet pills include some form of amphetamine as well because the drug is also an appetite suppressant. Methamphetamine can be prescribed for similar uses, but its negative reputation and its addictive nature limit its usage by physicians. While methamphetamine may be more addictive, amphetamine abuse is not uncommon, even when using the drug with a prescription. Both amphetamine and methamphetamine are often classified as narcotics and non-medical use is illegal in many countries.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon932637 — On Feb 12, 2014

Good to know. Amphetamines and Adderall saved my life from bath salts and other drugs, same with wellbutrin a.k.a. cathinone, which is what bath salts are made from, but this one doesn't act like that. It's different in ways.

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